Good growing conditions help once those seeds hit the ground. I picture and try to mimic the field along the coast of Rhode Island where I collected some of the seeds for my initial planting. That coastal soil is acidic - as is the blueberry, lingonberry, mountain laurel and rhododendron bed where I first planted my lupines. And Rhode Island summers rarely get hot; my lupine bed is near the cooler, northeastern side of my house.
By letting the plants self-sow in a spot they enjoy, I've had lupines come back year after year for more than five years, and there's no end in sight for lupinedom here.
We've been enjoying fresh figs for the past couple of weeks - almost tennis-ball-sized fruits having green skins and strawberry-colored, juicy, sweet flesh.
Just about everybody wants to grow figs, so it's fortunate that figs are so accommodating. They're hardy to about 15 degrees Fahrenheit and deciduous, so, with some machination, can be grown over a fairly wide range. They also tolerate abuse.
My first fig plant, from which I never harvested a fruit, grew in a pot in an apartment window. Subsequent plants grew in larger pots that summered outdoors in full sunlight and wintered in cold rooms or basements. Their crops were delicious but meager, limited by how big a pot I could muscle indoors and out twice a year. I've also grown plants in the ground, pushed their branches to the ground in late fall and covered the branches with leaves and tarps. That looked too depressing in winter, like a temporary graveyard.
Figs can bear two crops each year: the first on stems that grew the previous year and the second on new shoots of the current season. Some varieties bear both crops; other varieties bear one or the other. Most varieties you come across this far north, including the very common and delectable Brown Turkey, bear only on new shoots. Even if their branches die back a bit or are cut back - so they can fit indoors and be walked down to a basement, for example - they will still bear fruit; not if they're cut back or frosted back too much, though.
My Green Ischia fig bears two crops each year, and the fruit is somewhat different from one to the next. This fig is growing in the ground in my greenhouse, which is barely heated in winter and whose climate is similar to that of the Mediterranean that figs call home. The second crop, which begins in September, yields figs that are small, yet will be equally delicious as the present crop.
I mentioned a few weeks ago my love affair with crown imperial, a flower bulb that is so expensive that I've been multiplying it myself over the years for planting it around my yard. I propagate this bulb by digging carefully into the ground above my 20-year-old bulb when the foliage has browned. Once I find the softball-sized bulb, I leave it in place but carefully tease off pieces from its outermost layers - gingerly, because the bulb's flesh in very brittle. The garlic-clove-sized pieces go into a plastic bag, along with some moistened peat moss and perlite. I seal the bag and leave it in my barely heated basement, where the pieces experience a few months of warmish temperatures, then a few months of very cool temperatures - at which point roots form. I pot up the developing bulbs, plant them out when the weather warms and wait - and I do mean wait: a few years - for blossoms.
Yesterday, I had a surprise when I started digging down towards that old crown imperial bulb. I came upon baseball-sized bulbs - not one, not two, but a half-dozen of them, all flowering size. They can't tolerate drying, so need to be planted somewhere soon. Now I'm thinking: Can I have too many crown imperials?
You can't have too many blueberries. If you agree and want to hear the blueberry gospel, come to a Blueberry-Growing Workshop, to be held in my garden on July 22 from 7:30 to 9 p.m. The cost is $20. Reservations are a must. Phone (845) 255-0417 or e-mail me for more information.
@ Lee Reich
Any gardening questions? E-mail them to me at email@example.com and I'll try answering them directly or in this Alm@nac column.